Tag Archives: culture

What I Won’t Miss About Living in Ecuador

– The diversity of people (predominantly one ethnicity unlike the melting pot in the States)

– Being stared at for being “tall” and “blonde”

– Having to watch my step, worry about breaking my ankle walking on the sidewalk

– Whistles, Car Horns/Alarms, Random Firework Shows every single night

– The no sense of time philosophy shared by every Ecuadorian

– Stores opening and closing whenever they feel like it

– Having to pay for “agua sin gas” (water) at every meal

– Holding my backpack like it was a baby on the bus in fear of it being slashed (aka having to be overprotective of belongings)

– Public breast-feeding

– Public urination

– Being asked for change when I presented a $5 bill or larger

– Nescafe or any of their coffee

– Fake ketchup

– The supermarket being crowded at any time of day

– Lack of personal space

– Coup Attempts

– Squeezing onto the buses and being packed lack a sardine

– The fact that insulation did not exist in the houses, meaning it felt like the Arctic in my bedroom

– The machismo personality (gawking and throwing pick-up lines at every ‘pretty’ girl)

– No seat-belts, No speed limits, No rules of the road

– Having to dart out of the ways of cars, not having the right of way as a pedestrian

– Having to throw away the toilet paper in a trash can rather than in the toilet

– Not having hot water in the faucets or showers (electric showers)

– Indoor smoking is still allowed in business/bars

– Having to haggle for anything (food, taxi fare, any item you wanted to purchase)

– Being begged for money at every corner, street light or on the bus

– Being sold/or asked to buy candy or food at every corner, street light or on the bus

– The lack of seasons

– Having to see stray dogs and homeless everywhere

– Lack of any spicy food

– Rice

– Not being able to eat salad for fear of contracting a parasite

– Slow walkers – they definitely take their time getting to and from places

– The scary stories of rape, robberies, slashed purses, drugs, etc

– Wondering whether or not the laundry people actually washed my clothes or not

– Being told not to walk around at night after 7 pm by myself

– No sense of common courtesy (knowing what the point of a line means, waiting your turn)

– The mission it is to pickup a package

– Overpriced imports (candy from the United States)

– Lack of laundry machines in the house, having to take it to the cleaners who may or may not even wash them

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Filed under Activities, Ecuador, Facts, Food, Global, History, International, Latin America // South America, Sites, Tips, Tour, Travel, Worldwide

Venturing to Middle Earth in Ecuador

Not only does Ecuador have so much to offer in terms of its megadiversity in geography, being home to the Amazon, Coast, Sierra and Galapagos Islands, as well as numerous active volcanoes (including one of the highest) but it is also where the Middle of the World is located at 00° 00′ 00″  latitude on the equator line.

About 30 minutes outside of Quito is the point on the line, however, it’s not truly where most will lead you to believe. Don’t go toward the huge monument, which was finished being built in 1982, because it is not the correct representation of the middle of the world. The accurate center is actually located 240 meters north of where the line is marked at the “fake” spot. Due to improvements in calculations, mainly in the form of G.P.S. (global positioning system), scientists were able to discover the real center of the world. Unfortunately, many people continue to flock to this tourist trap and straddle the line for the opportunity to have their pictures taken at the Middle of the World.

standing on the middle of the world

Just around the corner (walking distance) is the real Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) known as Intiñan Solar Museum, which provides an awesome value. For $3 USD you can take a tour of native Ecuadorian homes, learn about the animals of the Amazon rain forest and partake in equatorial experiments on the equator. The museum is truly off the beaten road, well, most roads in Ecuador are pretty rough, but you walk through brush on a dirt path to get to the site.

You tour the huts and gain an understanding of the sleeping arrangements that were lived back in the early days of Ecuador by the andean people. Children would sleep with their parents until the age of 12, where they could then climb up to a room on the second floor. In a different situation, four to five families would share the hut, organizing it into quarters. Get a glimpse at the weapons that were simultaneously used for fighting with one end of the spear and fishing, which would be the other end.

the process of be-heading and shrinking the head

See boa constrictors and other random water species from the Amazon, especially the non-delightful Candiru’ Fish, which is attracted to urine and will swim up a man or woman’s urethra and grow inside of them. Since it’s claws are backwards, the only way to get it out is my surgical methods. I do not suggest relieving yourself in the Amazon rivers during your treks no matter how badly you have to go.

One of the unique parts of the tour was getting to see examples of shrunken heads, a practice that is no longer in effect in Ecuador. They have posters to graphically show you the method, which make you question humanity all the more.

the water experiment on the equator

However, the best part of the tour is left until the end. The tour guide will tease you with lessons on telling time on the equator and explain how the product harvests and fiestas were calculated by the solar cultures who held the movement of the sun and stars in high regards.

Then, you get to do the fun stuff. Your balance is effected when you are on the equator and trying to walk a straight line with your eyes closed becomes impossible. Water, turns clockwise and counter-clockwise on either the north or south side. Nonetheless, it falls straight down when on the equator. Successfully balancing an egg is such a tremendous feat, that those who can do so, receive a certificate. Favorite part of the entire tour: getting my passport stamped with 00° 00′ 00″ at the Middle of the World.

examples of shrunken heads during the indigenous period

a successfully balanced egg on a nail at the middle of the world

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Filed under Activities, Ecuador, Facts, Global, History, International, Latin America // South America, Sites, Tips, Tour, Travel, Worldwide

Getting to know the face of Ecuador

There are so many people just wandering the streets in Ecuador. I’ve always had this desire to ask each person I look in the eyes while walking these sidewalks to work or to eat, “Where are you going? Why? Why now? How did you get here?” They are all so similar in attributions: dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes.

an ecuadorian boy in the park

In the United States we seem to place all Latin Americans into one category. Yet, they are all so different. Ecuadorians look like Ecuadorians and I just don’t know how to explain it. Mexicans are Mexicans. Argentineans behave like Argentineans.

There is a girl I work with who is half-Argentinean and I think I have begun to annoy her with how many times I tell her that she reminds me of my friend who was born in Argentina. How she cuts her food and the way she holds the utensils. Not to mention their appearances as well: the light shade of brown hair. The long fingers with the curves at the middle and end. The facial structure.

It amazes me how people from each country have the same characteristics with their appearances. What is supposed to make us unique? Maybe that is where language comes in or dress styles or traditions. How are we supposed to stand out from each other?

Tonight, my friend and I went to a jazz festival and met another friend I had made from the blogger world (her blog is Afoot and Light-Hearted). We spoke about how “gringa” we looked in the crowd of people. I remember her saying, “I can spend two years here and people would still think it was my first day here [in Quito].” We couldn’t help but laugh and agree. This world continues to judge people based on their appearance. A fellow traveler approached us at the festival, I don’t know whether it was because we were speaking English or was based on our appearance. However, the common element was that he felt safe and secure enough to come over and talk to us because we were from the same country.

Sure, it’s nice to meet people with whom you have stuff in common with, such as language and appearances, but isn’t travel supposed to push you? Make you learn a whole different culture? What better way to do that than to meet the people who are living the culture every day of their lives? It’s like we place this barrier that prevents us from reaching out to these people. Makes you feel like you’re intruding in their lives but this is not the case.

As the traveler, it is your responsibility to make the effort to appreciate the place you are visiting and to get to know its people. Dark hair, light hair, dark skin, light skin, Spanish or English, we are all humans and we can all connect with each other. Breaking down the barriers helps bring about cultural understanding and in doing so, breaks down stereotypes and builds a better world.

Next time you get the chance to meet someone new don’t be afraid to kiss the person’s cheek and say, “Hola, como estas?”

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Filed under Ecuador, Global, International, Latin America // South America, Tips, Travel, United States, Worldwide

Oriententing Myself

I’m at that point where I am nervous and excited about my move to Ecuador. I have to continually remind myself that I’m leaving this weekend to visit family in Indiana, with a side-dish road-trip to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky.

It will most likely be filled with ups-and-downs because my grandpa just went through a quadruple bypass surgery after a minor heart-attack and, well, let’s just say that side of the family still seems to be going through World War II, which is where the seed for the family-tree was planted.

This will be my only vacation taken all summer and I haven’t even started doing laundry. In my opinion, once you’ve traveled internationally, you lose the excitement of packing for any trip. You wait until the very last night before or the day you leave — depending on the time of departure — to actually put the loads of laundry in the washer and toss a pile of disheveled, wrinkled clothes into a suitcase.

For Indiana and Kentucky, I’ll most likely revert to an Adidas duffel bag and wing it:

  • Shirts – check.
  • Cargo pants than can become shorts with one quick zip – check.
  • Converse – check.
  • Toothbrush – check.

No stress. No worries.

My mind is more focused on Ecuador than anything else. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? I’m practically moving to a foreign country. I’m thinking about money. I’m thinking about the internship – what if I’m not cut out to be a travel writer. I’m thinking I need a full-time job. Why can’t I be normal like my older sister and twin sister. One has been a crime-scene technician for more than a couple years now and loves it. My twin sis just started her career as a teacher today — and I’m still here, going from internship to internship still trying to get the big break.

But isn’t that part of the excitement in not knowing what’s going to happen? Stepping off that airplane and into an entirely different part of the world brings out that adventurous spirit in myself. This is the job I want. This is the office where I want to work. I admire those like my sisters who can take pictures of dead people and have the patience to mold the minds of our future.

However, I want the opportunity to bring cultures to people in all corners of the planet, whether it be in the pages of a geography book, in an online article or in the pages of a travel guide I may have written or contributed to.

At this point, I have to stop wanting and actually do it. This is the dreaming turning into reality.

I will educate people about a variety of languages, food, cultures, music and places they may never have heard about, because maybe, just maybe they’ll think of traveling there one day because of the pictures I have taken and the words I have written.

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Filed under Ecuador, International, Internship, Travel

Travel the World by Sound

When you’re traveling do you tend to notice yourself always looking around — your eyes darting from site to site, monument to monument, from paintings to statues and the picturesque landscapes? You’re seeing this new state, country or city with excited eyes and, let’s be honest, most of the time through the lens of a camera.

However, one of the other best parts about traveling and experiencing another culture (besides the food) is being able to listen.

I believe most tourists and travelers, yes, there is a difference, tend to forget about the other senses that make their adventure all the more enjoyable. Sure you get to taste the authentic version of the native cuisine or see sites you would never see at home but you need to hear the country as well.

Whether you’re in the jungle or on a mountain, listen to the calls of animals around you. If you’re in a street, listen to the cars, people communicating and the natural noises that call this part of the planet their home. And my most favorite sound is the music of that particular culture: the drumming, the strumming, the beats and tones, and the lyrics in that country’s language. The instruments that you rarely see or hear where you’re from.

These are all sounds that you won’t be able to take back in pictures. However, you may be lucky to find a CD.

Right now, I am into the sounds of Africa and Hawaii.

These two albums have been on repeat in my iTunes recently.

The flutes, the drums and the native chants make you wish you were absorbed in the painted texture of the African deserts letting your body dance itself across the land.

I can say that you have never heard the brilliance of a guitar until you heard the sounds that strum off a slack key guitar, especially when it is accompanied by the rich, deep tone of the Hawaiian language. You feel as if you are on some remote beach, under the shade of the palm trees watching the waves roll in and brush over your feet while listening to this music.


Next on my list of places to travel to instrumentally: Asia & New Zealand.

Do you have any music from a place you’ve traveled or would like to travel to that you admire?

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Filed under International, Tips, Travel